After three seasons away, Lower Richland reasserted its dominance at Colonial Life Arena on Saturday, defeating Orangeburg-Wilkinson 57-35 for the girls Class 3A championship.
“It feels real good because these girls have waited so long for this and now they get to celebrate,” Diamond Hornets coach Debbie Stroman said.
Lower Richland last won the title in 2009 and had finished each of the past three seasons in the semifinals.
This year, the Diamond Hornets, led by seniors Jasmine Richardson and Dayonshe Mitchell, finished with a 26-0 record.
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“It starts with that first practice of the week,” Stroman said. “We didn’t change anything. And since I’ve been here, and I know, that’s what we always do.”
But, more important, she said, “I wanted them to see a leader that was fearless.
“I wanted them to know that they had a coach who had their back 100 percent, and when they looked over at the bench, I wanted them to know that I had confidence in them.”
That confidence was not unfounded.
With the win, Stroman is 7-for-7 in championship appearances. She has more state titles than Hall of Fame coach Fred Senter (six) and as many as Mac Quattlebaum, who won seven Class C titles with Hollywood High between 1948 and 1959.
Lower Richland junior forward Breshay Johnson led the game with 14 points and 14 rebounds as the Diamond Hornets dominated through three quarters.
Orangeburg-Wilkinson looked to take control early. Off the bat, Bruins senior Nabresha Hughes swished in a 3-pointer from the corner.
Junior Christian Brown put Lower Richland on the board with two jumpers, and the Diamond Hornets picked up steam when Richardson got involved.
But Richardson picked up three fouls in the first four minutes.
With their most experienced player on the bench, the young Diamond Hornets stayed cool and calm.
“It never got scary for them; it never got weird for them. They just played the game they wanted to play,” Stroman said.
Eighth grader Kameron Roach stepped in at point guard and kept the Diamond Hornets on track. Roach’s rebound and lane-driving layup tied the game with 90 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
An assist from Breshay Johnson to Alaysia Washington for a layup got the Diamond Hornets rolling at the end of the quarter. Johnson tipped in another bucket just before the buzzer to give Lower Richland a 12-8 going into the second period.
With 3:19 left in the half, the Diamond Hornets had settled in and doubled their lead.
Richardson hit a 3-pointer with 30 seconds to go that set the halftime score at 26-11 in favor of the Diamond Hornets.
“We came here with one goal, and that was to beat the other team,” Brown said. “That was all we were thinking about.”
Lower Richland outscored the Bruins 14-3 in the second quarter. In the half, the Diamond Hornets got 11 points off turnovers and 14 in the paint, and Johnson posted eight points and nine rebounds.
LR: Brown 7, Breshay Johnson 14, Mitchell 7, Irving 4, Jasmine Richardson 13, Roach 4, Green 2, Washington 4, Hicklin 2. OW: Howard 2, Ritter 5, Hughes 8, Mitchell 4, Grevious 2, Jackson 2, Saukita Glover 12.